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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jul 6, 2011 11:41am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: St Stephen (and Other Tunes with More Than One Composer)

Unfortunately, there are hardly any rehearsal tapes to listen to....I wish there were. The few we have are mostly uninformative. Fortunately, there are a lot of comments from Weir & Garcia (and often Hunter) about how they wrote various songs - but there are specific things that are still unknown. (I'd like to know just what, for instance, Lesh added to Cumberland Blues? It had to have been more than the bass-line.)
The interesting thing is how FEW songs are attributed to the whole band....mainly just from the very early years. As you say, in '68 this died off. St Stephen is perhaps the last song from the 'band-collaboration' days, being written in spring '68. By the fall, Garcia/Hunter had taken over. (There was a revival of the 'whole-band' concept in '75 when recording Allah, but it was short-lived, and they mainly wrote separately from then on.)

One thing we see sometimes is that the seed of a song will originate in a band jam, but by the time it reaches song form, it'll just have the usual 'Garcia/Hunter' or similar tag on it. The Dead had every reason to be generous with song credits (like they were with the Other One suite on the Anthem album, which had different sections attributed to everybody but Hart, even TC and Pigpen) - so I'd guess the final attribution is a very good clue as to who the Dead considered the main author. The Eleven, for instance, isn't credited to the band or the drummers - nope, just Phil. (Whereas Dark Star is credited to everybody.) Easy Wind is another tune that's credited ONLY to Hunter, though he says the Dead changed his arrangement considerably.

Weir in particular was a magpie, hanging onto little riffs he liked for years before putting a song on them. The WRS prelude had been floating around since '71; the Estimated Prophet bridge has a little workout in '74; two of his '71 songs snatch Mickey Hart riffs; Music Never Stopped 'borrows' the Mind Left Body pattern; etc.

Garcia worked in a different way, tending to come up with melodies first. The classic instance is Uncle John's Band, where he had the whole song worked out instrumentally in fall '69 and then asked Hunter to put some words on it. Though Garcia famously didn't like writing songs, he was able to do it very quickly.

It is puzzling why we don't have any Lesh songs between '68 and '74 - in '68 he was very much the dominant, bossy figure in the band, but after that he seems to be more of a 'backseat driver'. Maybe he thought the body of work they already had was satisfying enough - or maybe he figured the band just wasn't going to play more of his oddball avant compositions!

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Jul 6, 2011 12:42pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: St Stephen (and Other Tunes with More Than One Composer)

This raises the interesting idea of "songs that almost were" - thematic ideas or jams that might have spawned a song, but never received further development. It's obviously a vague category, but I'm fascinated by examples like the pre-St. Stephen space with the tarantella rhythm on 10/15/83 which sounds so precise and almost pre-composed. The Watkins Glen soundcheck jam's main groove is another example of a riff which seems like it deserved more than just one performance. There is a really magical moment that begins a bit under 36 minutes into the 5/21/74 Playin that sounds like a thematic jam I've never heard elsewhere. 76 has a few distinctive "what the heck was THAT?" jams like the "Orange Cream" jam I saw discussed a while back. In plenty of cases I can't quite tell if I've heard something in multiple jams or not, and the distinction between a "theme" or just a characteristic lick can be hard to pin down.

I recall an interview where they talked about mining the jams for tasty nuggets and whipping them up into songs, but of course in the later years that never really happened...

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Jul 6, 2011 2:56pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: St Stephen (and Other Tunes with More Than One Composer)

Yes, Weir spoke a few times in the '80s of listening to the tapes after a show and finding the germ of a song idea in a jam - like in '83: "Sometimes a complete disaster will amount to something....we'll go back and listen to the tape, and by god, there's the basis of another song there." He made it sound like it was still an ongoing thing - but he didn't name any examples!
Which made me wonder if it ever really happened, or if the Dead always just left it at, "Hey, there COULD be a new song there..." They were often a band more of possibilities than realizations! (Which Garcia ruefully admitted in many '80s interviews...)

There are quite a few examples in the early '70s of jams that pop up only once but sound like they must have been composed... I've mentioned some of them often:
2/18/71 Beautiful Jam
3/22/72 the 'Bobby McGee/Bid You Goodnight' jam at the end of Caution
7/25/72 the 'almost-Spanish Jam' in the middle of the Other One
12/31/72 the last jam in the Other One

I'm sure you'd like the quiet jam at the end of the 3/20/77 Other One; not a themed jam, but kind of a prelude to the solo spaces Jerry would play in May '77, here Phil & Bob accompany him and it just drips with a 'classical' feeling.

That jam near the end of the 5/21/74 Playing struck me as well as something unique; it is quite the mood swing. Given how they start set II with that Playing and go for such length, perhaps they were intending to make it a medley, but went through so many themes that actual songs became unnecessary! (Happens occasionally that year...) And the 10/15/83 space is also a favorite of mine - Jerry & Bob had been working on the guitar-duet spaces through the year.

But any of these could be things the band did in rehearsal all the time....we only heard them when they happened to pop up onstage.

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Poster: bkidwell Date: Jul 6, 2011 4:30pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: St Stephen (and Other Tunes with More Than One Composer)

Nice examples, and thanks for the 3/20/77 recommendation, never heard it before and it is a shining example of Jerry playing "pure music" that Bach would have loved.